Stolen truck smashes Leach Garden’s gates

Take a look at this curious outer East Portland story that starts when a man, aroused from snoozing in a stolen truck, drove off toward Johnson Creek, only to find the bridge was out …

The story ended here, at the busted classic wrought-iron gates at the Leach Botanical Garden, in the Pleasant Valley neighborhood – now closed with a temporary fence. The incident started just up the road.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Portland Police Bureau (PPB) East Precinct officers were called to the intersection of SE 122nd Avenue at Foster Place on March 14 at 6:26 a.m. for a “Welfare Check”, when neighbors reported that a man was passed out, in a pickup truck, in the middle of the road.

“When officers arrived, they determined the truck was stolen,” remarked PPB Public Information Officer Sgt. Chris Burley.

Police continue to search for a suspect with a gun, after he smashed through the Leach Botanical Garden front gates. Photo by Sri Chowdhury

“However, as they approached the vehicle, officers saw a handgun in the cab of the pickup truck, in close proximity to the suspect,” Burley told East Portland News.

Before trying to rouse the man, officers devised a plan to attempt contact with the suspect, and quietly slid tire-puncturing “spike strips” in front of the wheels, should the suspect attempt to drive away.

Staying a safe distance from the truck, an officer used a squad car’s PA system to “loud hail” the driver. “The suspect awoke and drove off in the vehicle – over the strategically placed spike strips,” Burley confirmed.

Even with flattened tires, this truck made it up the Leach Botanical Garden driveway, near the Manor House.

Neighbors remarked that it was obvious the suspect wasn’t from the neighborhood, because he headed south on SE 122nd Avenue. The narrow road twists and turns down a steep hill, ending at concrete Jersey barriers that have blocked the 122nd Avenue Bridge for the past two years.

Police don’t know if the suspect couldn’t stop, or simply chose to drive the stolen truck right through the Leach Botanical Garden gates, but the truck came to a stop near the top of the driveway that dead-ends into the Leach Manor House.

The man scrambled out of the truck and disappeared in the labyrinth of trails and trees on the Leach property.

Police check over the stolen truck, looking for evidence.

Police were looking for a suspect described as a Caucasian or Asian man, in his early 20s neighbors said.

“A neighborhood search, with the assistance of a K-9 team, was unsuccessful,” Burley said. But police are still on the lookout for the man.

Leach Botanical Garden Executive Director David Porter remarked that Portland Parks & Recreation is responsible for repairing the damage to the gate, or replacing it.

© 2018 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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